Make Halifax A Connected City for Life, Work and Play: Community Leaders: Will other Communities follow Suit?
February 19, 2014

Make HRM a “connected” city where people want to live, work and play, said a group of business and community leaders in a recent planning session to ramp up Halifax as a world-class “Intelligent City”. This vision was one of many ideas that could act as a vision to transform HRM and set priorities for action

In opening the meeting, Mayor Michael Savage stressed the importance of the program for the community:  “Halifax is experiencing a great swell of optimism, buoyed up by our new shipbuilding contract, the offshore oil investment and new construction.  We need to ask ourselves: what kind of city do we need to become? Cities that fail to keep up with the current in this swiftly moving century risk being left behind. And, make no mistake we are in a global competition for talent and business investment.

“Our future will be shaped more by what’s between our ears than what we hold in our hands. The pay-off is in economic growth, job creation, environmental advancement, and a general elevation of our shared community.”  Mayor Savage pointed out that Halifax has the most widely deployed broadband network in the country, and assets like the Big Data Analytics Institute.

Paul Kent, President and CEO of the Greater Halifax Partnership, chaired the morning session, stressed that creating an Intelligent Community takes an intense level of commitment, collaboration and partnership activity: “This community needs to work in partnership through all of our public and private organizations. This approach maximizes financial leverage and enables development of initiatives with far greater breadth and scope.”

“Intelligent Cities have measurably higher success with economic growth, incoming investment, employment and innovation across all social priorities compared to their neighbours,” said Greg Keefe, Director of Finance and IT at HRM.  “We have joined with i-CANADA on a structured ‘escalator’ for citizen engagement and transformation.”

i-CANADA has set up an action program to accelerate HRM’s progress towards becoming an Intelligent Community.  “This year, three of the top seven contenders for Most Intelligent Community are Canadian cities,” said i-CANADA co-founder Barry Gander.  “This global designation means a lot in terms of immediate investment and employment.  There is no doubt that Halifax can achieve a top international ranking  - but the competition from Asia, the U.S. and Europe is fierce.  The process of getting there, however, will be as rewarding for Halifax as the prize itself.”

Setting communal goals

The first step in the process was to establish common goals for the community.  Deb Krizmanich, CEO of Powernoodle, moderated an all-day session that sparked and funneled ideas from Halifax leaders, and created an action plan.  Powernoodle uses collaboration technology to create engaged decision making.  “Developing an Intelligent Community is 90% about user applications and only 10% about technology,” said Ms.Krizmanich.  “While such transformation is rooted in widespread access to ultra high-speed broadband connectivity, it must be stressed that this process is not about the communications network; it is about how people use the network for the advancement of their lives, businesses, education and health.  We can’t overlook the fact that we need a certain calibre of network  -  you can’t build a modern city using gravel roads  -  but Halifax has the capacity to do that.  More important is to involve people in applications that make their dreams come alive”

The session started by focussing the leaders on this question: “If you were granted three wishes for a Smart Halifax Community, what would they be?”  The answers centered on technology such as free wi-fi, a wired city, a youth portal, and a better HRM web site; collaboration, including idea incubators and a mixing of age groups; and construction development projects like affordable housing.

The group generated 56 specific goals to focus on to achieve these wishes, which were consolidated and put into these priorities:

·         -  Implement free wifi in key business hubs across HRM, on transit and homes by 2017;

·         -  By 2017, implement taskforce & programs that increase the technology literate/competent workforce by 50%;

·         -  Put digital infrastructure in place by 2017 to support a wired city; and

·         -  Make all municipal data available via Open Government, with a 1000% increase in data captured and forums for engagement.

-  To make these goals real, it was agreed that the critical success factors were:

·        -   Bold and direct vision developed by key stakeholders, supported by key stakeholders and championed by the mayor;

·         -  To identify and execute a focused list of visible and impactful initiatives that demonstrate the value of smarter technology;

·         -  Collaboration/communication between private, public and academic sectors; and

·         -  Achieve a common understanding amongst stakeholders of the definition of a “smart community” for Halifax.

HRM Mayor Michael Savage is one of the 60 leaders on an i-CANADA Governors Council that is Chaired by The Honourable David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick. “Halifax has many strong assets,” said Mayor Savage, “including smart people, flexible and advanced business, and first-class universities.  This gives us competitive advantages and a compelling quality of life.  What we need to do is bring these assets together  --  especially our leadership  --  in order to attain global recognition.”

In the i-CANADA process, a series of steps will move the communities of HRM along the evolution, including creation of a governance model, engagement program, survey of network users, vision-and-prioritization, technology assessment, rural assessment, financial plan, and start of construction.  The next steps will include goal-setting for the most important sectors in Halifax, and a survey of the community’s view of its strengths and weaknesses.

“We are looking forward to mobilizing along this tested path to become a key foundation in a new nation of Intelligent Communities  -   communities large and small, central and remote, all enjoying the economic development, job growth and social prosperity now available in the world’s leading Intelligent Communities,” stated Mr. Keefe.

For further information please contact:

Barry Gander
Co-Founder, i-CANADA
EVP Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA)